tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 15, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EST
title. and extremely rare achievement. you need a white run to put next to her. >> that is a cute dog. see you at 11:00. have a good evening. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening on this president's day night, day three of the games in vancouver. but our attention is focused instead on a growing political story back home. one of the modern day bright lights of the democratic party and a well-known name in the u.s. senate said today he's calling it quits and taking a big shot at washington on his way out. senator evan bayh says he's sick of how things work or don't work, and his departure from the
senate further jumbles the political table for a still new demoatic president. we begin tonight in washington with our chief white house correspondent and nbc news political director chuck todd. good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. evan bayh isn't retiring because he thought he was going to lose this year. though he was going to have to work a little bit harder to win re-election. he's leaving because he's frustrated with congress. in fact, frustration with congress in washington is turning into a recurring theme this year. >> i do not love congress. >> reporter: evan bayh's abrupt decision to retire and blunt explanation, gridlock. >> there's much too much partisanship and not enough progress. too much ideology and not enough practical solving. >> reporter: those close to bayh say he had been waivering for months on whether to run again. he telegraphed his conversation
in congress with president obama. >> are we willing to make some of the tough decisions to head this country in another direction. >> reporter: the president himself has frequently hammered on the gridlock. >> they didn't send us to washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel cage match to see who comes out alive. >> reporter: members of both parties are frustrated. retiring senator george voinovich failed on his bid for a deficit reduction commission. >> on too many occasions congress has been unwilling to experience short term pain to achieve long term gain. >> reporter: this year six senators are retiring. it's the same number as left in 1996, for the same reasons bayh cited today. >> i'm much more partisan today. it's more acerbic. >> partisanship. i've been in caucuses where we didn't spend any time at all
talking about the issues, but how to diddle so and so on the other side. >> reporter: in the last 14 years, things have gotten worse in the senate. >> the partisan polarization is so severe at this point and shows no signs of letting up. >> reporter: brian, evan bayh really left democrats in a lurch. a lot of senate democrats are upset with him tonight because there's a few days left before they can even find a candidate to run in indiana at this point. that in itself has left a lot of people wondering if evan bayh, when the tough got going, he went ahead and left. brian? >> chuck todd, bigger question, how to change this political atmosphere in this country. but a question for another day. we are following another major story tonight in afghanistan. one of the biggest battles of the war in its third day, a tough fight to try to pry loose
control of the taliban in helmand province. >> reporter: for u.s. marines in marjah, the fight got tougher today. the battle for this taliban strong hold erupting all around them. three days of intense fighting have left their mark. at first sight, no one is trusted. but with a break in the fighting today, the critical battle for hearts and minds has begun. the marines promise medical attention to this man's son that was wounded in the crossfire. sebastian rich embedded with the marines for nbc news says the strategy is already paying off. >> after three days of intensive fighting, the locals of marjah are coming out and telling the marine corps the location of ied's and opium. and bomb making stashes. >> reporter: tips led them to 70 million ounces of opium. the afghans don't trust the
americans enough just yet to tell them where the taliban are hiding. >> not at this point. theye still very much afraid of the taliban. >> reporter: the effort to win over the afghans suffered a serious setback sunday when a rocket attack killed nine innocent civilians. the top american commander apologized today but despite the coalition's best efforts, u.s. military officials and analysts see it as a regrettable cost of war. >> it was a tragic accident. but these people need to be free of a taliban redoubt and a major drug production center. >> reporter: tonight there are still pockets of fierce taliban resistance, meaning the battle for marjah could drag on for weeks. but it's likely to take even longer than that, before we know for sure if president obama's new military strategy for afghanistan has passed this first critical test. brian? >> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon for us tonight. we move to huntsville, alabama where the questions
continue to pile up in a case of amy bishop, university of alabama professor accused of shooting six colleagues, killing three of them. she was arraigned today on murder charges, now some people are asking how she ever ended up on the faculty, given some of her trouble in her past. nbc's thanh truong reports from huntsville. >> reporter: the university of alabama, huntsville is eerily quiet today, claes cancelled for the holiday are cancelled all week. flags fly half staff and flowers have been left in memory of last week's shooting. last week, gunfire broke the campus calm at the shelby center where amy bishop suddenly opened fire, killing three of her colleagues and wounding three others. the 44-year-old was hoping for a tenured position but had been denied. >> granting of tenure is a long and involved process, because as you know, the decision involves whether a professor will be effectively granted a position for the rest of their time at
the university. >> reporter: as the investigation into the killings deepen, police have discovered this is not dr. bishop's first encounter with deadly violence. that was 24 years ago, far from here, in her hometown of braintree, massachusetts and it involved her younger brother. 18-year-old seth bishop was killed after police say his older sister, amy shot him inside their home. >> she shot her brother in the chest, fled the home, prior to fleeing the home, she fired one more round from the shotgun. >> reporter: at the time it was ruled an accidental shooting, but questions are now surfacing. then in 1993, as a doctoral student, she was questioned after a package containing two pipe bombs was delivered to the home of her professor, the device never detonated and authorities cleared bishop and her husband of any wrongdoing. tonight amy bishop, neurobiologist, mother of four
and professor is in jail awaiting a court appearance. and the campus community is preparing for a memorial service scheduled for week's end. thanh truong nbc news, huntsville, alabama. here in vancouver, amid all the olympic competition, today was also a day of mourning. friends and teammates said an emotional good-bye to the 21-year-old georgian luger who lost his life here on friday. his body will be transported back to his hometown. >> reporter: in this tiny mountain village, a mother cries for her son. my strong son, she wails, i would rather die than you. and a sister sobs. david kumaritashvili says his wife and daughter haven't been able to eat since they heard about nodar. three days before nodar's death, he called home.
>> he said, it feels like my head is coming off on that turn, i'm scared. i said, n, go slowly. >> reporter: nodar's father raced luge as well. five racers from the kumaritashvili made up the georgian team in the '70s. nodar's mission was to carry on the family tradition. but his father was worried. >> i told him to go slowly, he said how can you a professional athlete tell me to slow down when i'm at the olympic games. i won't. >> reporter: that stubborn competitive spirit began here. like these kids, nodar's appreciation for winter sports started at an early age, but to train for the luge he needed to fly to western europe. because the soviet luge tracks in this country had long since fallen apart. many people here believe the training and competitions on the world cup circuit should have
been all the young athlete needed. to make sure the next generation of lugers get the best training at home, the government has announced they will build a new track dedicated to nodar and his olympic dream. >> along with the sadness there is very much a sense here in vancouver that these games must go on. you hear it all the time, in fact there may be no higher fallen tribute than that. today all eyes were on american skier bode miller's comeback bid in the men's downhill. if you wish to wait until tonight to see who won, here's how we've done it in past years. now would be a good time to look away from your television set as we show you the medal winners in that competition. and now, after a suitable amount of time to pause as we put the results on the screen, we will move to last night, a performance that is being
described as fantastic, awesome, unbelievable. it was all that, a breathtaking performance by the chinese in pairs skating with a score to match. a world record, 76.66, really the closest thing to perfect anyone who watches the sport had ever seen. finals in that event are tonight. the long wait is over, with an upset win in men's moguls last night, canada won its first ever gold medal in a winter olympics in canada. this city has erupted, they haven't calmed down yet. when our broadcast continues on this president's day. never before seen footage from a day burned into the american memory, love field, dallas 1963. and the first conversation with the family of american olympic hopeful kevin pierce, whose dream was derailed by a terrible injury.
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back now from vancouver, where competition in one of the most daring and exciting sports in these games, the snowboard half pipe gets underway on wednesday. one of america's brightest olympic prospects was kevin pierce, a young snowboarder from vermont. a devastating injury during training left him fighting for his life. now in an exclusive interview, his family is talking about it all for the first time. here with that, kevin tibbles. >> reporter: artistry and athletics meant kevin pierce was a favorite to make the high flying u.s. team.
the 22-year-old is one of the few boarders to actually beat shaun white. he's done it twice. >> you see all these athletes that get so big and get all this attention. i think the attention goes to their head. >> reporter: his values come from a strong vermont family used to adversity. kevin has struggled with learning disabilities. >> what have you been doing all morning. >> reporter: his older brother david has down's syndrome. his brother is a trailblazer too. a special olympics medal winner. >> i look over to my left and see dave, he has this huge pile of medals, he's already been to the special olympics and done that. >> reporter: the brothers have a special relationship. >> i think kevin has learned a lot about patience from david,
because everything for david takes longer, and the challenges have been immense for him. >> reporter: four brothers who grew up living for snow. at just eight years old, kevin confronted jake burton. >> i asked him if they would make me a kid's board because there was no such thing at the time. a couple weeks later he came back with this. >> reporter: that board still hangs on his bedroom wall. along with boyhood dreams of gold. but to chase that dream, risk. just last fall kevin's mother spoke of her anxiety watching her youngest son compete. >> it is such a high risk thing that he's doing all the time. and the opportunity for extreme injury is amazing. >> reporter: then a mother's worst fears realized, on new year's eve while training on a 22-foot half pipe in park city, utah, pierce missed a difficult maneuver, slamming his head into the icy wall. and even though he was wearing a helmet, was left near death. since then his family has constantly been at his side as kevin has slowly begun to heal. >> the brain needs to mend itself.
in order to do that, it needs to be quiet. often we sit with him and hold his hand for hours and don't talk to him. >> reporter: doctors say kevin has memory loss, impaired vision and must learn to walk again. but his brother adam says kevin's spirit has been strong. >> there's never been a time where he's complained or been upset with where he is or what's happened. >> you can see it, feel it in him he's working his way through it. he's going to get there. >> reporter: the sounds of last summer seem a long time ago, back when kevin and his brothers practiced their moves. tomorrow there will be a special reunion, for the first time since his accident, kevin's brother david will be at his bedside to cheer him on. kevin tibbles, nbc news, norwich, vermont. when we come back, new images of a day in dallas that changed every american alive that day. whether i'm at the batting cages... down by the lake or...
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investigators are trying to find out if freezing temperatures may have played a part in the crash. the number of deaths that could be linked to sudden acceleration of toyotas is now up to 34 based on consumer complaints they've received. the national highway transportation safety administration says it's normal for complaints to increase aft people get word of a recall. as more people become aware of safety defects that could have contributed to accidents in the past. it's not often we get a new look at american history. but that happened today, when some never before seen color film was released showing president john f. kennedy's last day on earth. the cameraman was a 15-year-old dallas school boy named ward warren. he was there with his film camera at love field in dallas, when air force one arrived. the president and first lady emerged to a warm welcome. and think about it, jfk had just over an hour to live.
34-year-old jackie kennedy would soon be a widow. lyndon johnson would soon be sworn in as president of the united states. today ward warren in his 60s, lives in north texas. when we come back, a small town girl who could be on the fast track to glory here in vancouver. why would you go one more round using it ? you don't need a rematch-- but a re-think-- with lunesta. lunesta is different. it keys into receptors that support sleep, setting your eep process in motion. lunesta helps you get the restful sleep you need. when taking lunesta, don't drive or operate machinery until you feel fully awake. walking, eating, driving or engaging in other activities while asleep without remembering it the next day have been reported. abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion. in depressed patients, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide, may occur. alcohol may increase these risks. allergic reactions such as tongue or throat swelling occur rarely and may be fatal.
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♪ part of street life here in vancouver where on the olympic schedule tonight one of the biggest events is luge. it's the women's singles competition. even as this community of athletes mourns the death of one of their own, the competition goes on, of course. one of america's hopefuls in this event, a young woman from a small town in upstate, new york. and just about everyone in town will be watching and cheering and wishing erin hamlin good luck and a safe ride. nbc's chris jansen has her story tonight. >> reporter: erin hamlin is so laid back, you would find it hard to believe she could cause an uproar. but she did.
at last year's luge championships, hamlin pulled off an upset, handing germany its first loss in 99 straight women's races. >> you always have that in the back of your head, wanting to beat the germans andy it. >> reporter: suddenly the u.s. had its first real shot at olympic gold in luge. even her parents couldn't believe it. >> never in a million years do you think you'd be sitting in this seat. someone said to me, you know, nbc's going to be coming to your door. and i'm going, yeah, right. >> reporter: the road to erin's dreams started here in this small upstatnew york town, population less than 2,000. erin's mom is the high school nurse. her aunt the school secretary. >> yes, may i help you? >> reporter: and the local county legislationer tore is her
grandpa. >> this is an oldy but a goody. >> yeah, that's where it all starts. >> reporter: who bought erin her first conventional sled. at age 12 she fell in love with the luge. it's so much fun. going fast, you can go 90 miles an hour and not get in trouble for it. there's not many other things you can do that. >> reporter: erin slowed down just long enough to help out at the family steak stand during remsen's annual arts festival. which seemed like another reason to celebrate the hometown hero. the mayor himself hung the banner across main street. >> it's made the village really come alive again. >> reporter: the general store is selling hamlin hats. small town support that means the world to erin. >> i want to say it's close to everything. having that many people watching you and wanting you to do well, makes it that much better. it's awesome. >> reporter: even the soda fountain restaurant named a sundae after her. >> that's pretty good. >> reporter: but nothing would
taste as sweet as victory in vancouver. just ask her grandpa. what would it mean to you if that girl brought home a medal? >> it puts tears in my eyes just talking to you about it. >> reporter: it would be something else, wouldn't it? >> you bet your life. >> reporter: as remsen and all of germany know, you shouldn't bet against erin hamlin. chris jansing, nbc news, new york. >> to find out more about erin hamlin and many more members of team usa, go to nightly.msnbc.com. nbc sports prime time olympic corage begins tonight at 8:00, 7:00 central. just don't interrupt anybody in remsen during the coverage tonight. that's our broadcast for this monday night. thank you for being with us, i'm brian williams reporting tonight from vancouver. we hope to see you back here tomorrow. we'll leave you with a look at what we look like from here in downtown vancouver at grouse mountain. pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things.